9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN19 Sociology of Professions

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Careers and Professional Paths Building I, Auditório 1

Contemporary art curators: a nonstop reshaping leading profession in the artworld. Globe trotter curators

This paper refers to a PhD research in progress regarding contemporary art curators. It aims to explore the inherent complexities of a sociological comparative study on the curator. Studying curators as a sociological object presents interesting and never-ending problems. This profession or activity, depending on the countries and contexts considered, varies locally in its level of development. Its creative nature as well as the lack of a general code establishing its rules, results on highly individualized practices and different ways of understanding the role, reshaping itself not only when one focuses diverse countries but also when considering curators of a same country.

One of the most revealing questions is the difficulty of self definition, which conveys interesting perspectives to analyze the institutionalization of curating. In Portugal, for instance, few are the curators that define themselves exclusively as curators, but combine it with several other activities more easily recognizable. Other useful comparative data being observed: 1) the number of positions available for curators in institutions; 2) job vacancies and job descriptions for different positions; 3) the existence of associations of curators; 4) degree of internationalized careers.

Fourteen years have passed since Nathalie Heinich interviewed famous Swiss curator Harald Szeemann. Since then, there has been an immense growth of post graduate courses, workshops, seminars, awards, grants and literature devoted to curating. And a spreading sum of tasks or patchwork duties. One major change has been transnational mobility: it has profoundly increased, demanding from curators a worldwide knowledge that must cross national borders, when working abroad, including social, political, economic aspects. In fact, those curators who nowadays easily navigate from one country or continent to another are labeled as "globe trotter curators" or "nomadic curators".

This paper will pursue to show different processes of curating, working conditions, hierarchies, and bonds to institutions towards a European perspective. Comparative methodology helps us encompassing a broader analyze of a more than ever cross borders activity.